Thursday, 12 February 2009
Groupama 3 is relaunched. Image copyright Arnaud Pilpre/Studio Zedda.
by Caroline Muller and Vincent Borde
Just a year ago, Franck Cammas and his nine crew capsized 80 miles off New Zealand following the breakage of Groupama 3s port float. 24 hours ahead of the reference time set by the current Jules Verne Trophy record holder when the incident occurred, the crew was airlifted to safety by helicopter before heading back to the zone to rescue Groupama 3.
Remaining true to its commitment for over 10 years alongside Franck Cammas and his team, Groupama Management renewed its trust in the project by taking the decision to set off again on the assault of the Jules Verne Trophy as soon as possible.
"The adventure we've been involved in with Franck Cammas since 1997 has comprised some really great moments as well as some difficult periods at times... This capsize doesn't call into question the harmonious collaboration and the trust we have in Franck" stated Frédérique Granado at the time, Director of External Communication.
The true extent of their commitment and solidarity, the mainstays of the principles of action developed by the Group from the start, really became evident in this new challenge...
This resourcefulness enabled the trimaran to be returned to France in record time since less than 2 months after the painful episode, Groupama 3 was back in the yard in which it was created in Vannes, Brittany.
Ten months in the yard and 50,000 hours of work later, Groupama 3 is returning to its natural element for a 2009 campaign of record attempts, which will take her into the Mediterranean, the Atlantic Ocean and finally around the World in November for the Jules Verne Trophy.
"What doesn't kill you makes you stronger".
This saying from Nietzsche is really fitting as regards the fantastic response from Groupama team this year: "Last winter, we really came close to catastrophe and losing the boat. Seeing Groupama 3 back in her natural element today takes us back to June 2006, and the date she was first launched. Two and a half years have gone by and we are even stronger today. This is initially due to the fact that we've learnt how to get the full potential out of her, but also because we have made her stronger.
Though the shape of the new floats is identical, their structure is different so that she behaves better when she impacts with the waves, which are particularly big in the Southern Ocean" explains Stéphane Guilbaud, team manager of the Groupama trimarans, who goes on to say: "In the yard, the various contributors have worked really hard and we've made advances in every domain. Every technician in the team is beginning to know her inside out. We are being even more demanding and methodical. Hats off to all the Groupama team, who have willingly given their all over the past year. All that's done now and I'd like to highlight their efforts, in close collaboration with our shipowner Groupama, which has responded admirably in a very positive manner. It's our twelfth year together and that helps a lot in moments such as these."
Whilst the guys busy themselves on the 700 m2 trimaran (31.5 metres long and 22 wide), all eyes are on the new, more sober decoration. However, when you look at it up close, certain details particularly stand out:
1. As with Groupama 2, some careening fabric has been laid on the forward beams. The objective is clear: "Groupama 3 is the trimaran which displays the best weight/power ratio. Today we are seeking to gain refinement, both from an aerodynamic as well as a hydrodynamic viewpoint, with the aim of limiting the braking rather than souping up the engine. This careening has demonstrated its appeal on Groupama 2. As such it was only logical that they be incorporated into her big sister" explains Loïc Dorez, head of the Groupama team's research department.
2. The trampolines which serve as a sole in the cockpit are different: "We chose Spectra trampolines because they're lighter and sturdier and we have arranged them differently in order to facilitate the movement of the sails on deck. This may seem like a minor thing but when you have to shift the gennaker weighing around a hundred kilos forward, it's no longer just a detail" adds the 1.88 m tall Loïc Le Mignon.
In order to discover the additional improvements performed aboard Groupama 3, you have to go down below and listen to the explanations from Yann Merour, head of mechanics and Yann Riou, in charge of the power: "We've put a lot of work into optimising the generator, both in terms of its design and its fuel consumption. The benefits of this are twofold: fewer carbon missions and less diesel to be embarked.
We have also changed the batteries and the electrical circuit which now consists of 24 volts. These may only be details but at the end of the day it amounts to transporting fewer kilos". Yann Riou concludes: "We have also developed the systems for measuring performance with an acquisition centre which plots the stresses the platform undergoes and associates these to the sailing conditions. This enables us to make better use of the boat's potential without causing her to suffer".
Finally it is worth noting that the new "Fleet Broadband" aerial which enables the boat to communicate with shore (data and video) performs at higher speeds and is lighter.
Some time on the ocean is now called for in order to test out the various elements which have been optimised. In the meantime, Groupama 3 will return to her base in Lorient in Southern Brittany, where her mast will be stepped and the boat will be fully kitted out for an initial sail scheduled for 23rd February, following static tests.
The four records held by Groupama 3:
1. The Discovery Route (Cadiz - San Salvador) in 7 days, 10 hours and 58 minutes at an average of 21.7 knots
2. Miami - New York in 1 day, 11 hours and 5 minutes at an average of 27 knots
3. New York - Lizard Point in 4 days, 3 hours and 58 minutes at an average of 29.26 knots
4. Distance covered in 24 hours of 794 miles at an average of 33.08 knots
The three record attempts scheduled for 2009:
1. Marseilles - Carthage in May. Record held by Orange 2 in 17 hours and 56 minutes at an average of 25.5 knots
2. New York - Lizard Point in July and August. Record held by Groupama 3
3. Jules Verne Trophy in November. Record held by Orange 2 in 50 days 16 hours and 20 minutes at an average of 17.89 knots